Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

On Reviewing Movies

Everyone walking out of a cinema theatre is a critic, though there are varying degrees of understanding a movie. There is the erudite class of reviewers who usually hold degrees in film or at least in art criticism, definitely have a scholarly authority on the art and technique of movie-making and usually don't bring themselves to watch commercial blockbusters. They look for innovative shots, natural dialogues, long pauses, directorial touches... to mention a few of their requirements. These elite circles meet within themselves, discuss a shot (which a common man wouldn't have seen and even if he had, wouldn't understand the conversation anyway), smoke and generally complain about the slide of the art form into an entertainment for the mass.

Then there is the accessible class of reviewers, whose aim is to interpret their understanding of the story, it's pitfalls, scope, beauty, disappointments, etc to the common man. These guys don't usually hold any degrees in cinema and are okay with commercial films - they see cinema as both an art form and as an entertainment medium. They are willing to let cinema educate them and also let the readers know how profound the message is and powerful the movie is. They have a wide reach because of their simple and lucid interpretation of their thoughts, unlike the erudites. They have a smattering knowledge of what goes on behind the camera and try to update their knowledge through books, speciality sites and the erudite class.

At last is the fun class of reviewers, who don't take their reviews or the time taken by their readers seriously. They just want to let out their thoughts on a movie they saw in a print format, which the internet has made it very easy. They talk about the story in a vague manner, just go gaga over how cool their favourite star is on the screen and then narrate an incident that's unconnected to the movie. This is more like someone telling his friend how likable the movie and there is absolutely no coherent expression. There is not much to gain if you're a movie lover from such reviewers.

I consider myself to be in the accessible class. I read a lot about movies, watch classics and investigate what made them a classic. I stretch myself to find a rare title and see what erudites has to say about that movie. As I started understanding movies, I started falling for those which are labeled 'art'. Contrary to what the common man believes, 'art movies' aren't boring if you understand what they're trying to convey. There are close-up shots of a door-knob, so that you can wildly imagine what's going on inside the room; insanely long shot of an old man walking slowly, who is realizing that he has a lot to do and so little time; long pauses between a conversing couple, so that the viewer can wonder what's going on in their minds; static camera which doesn't follow the characters, to create a sense of the viewer being a restrained voyeur peeping through the camera viewfinder. As one's understanding goes up, it is actually fun to watch such movies.

That doesn't mean I'm bored with a typical commercial movie. It's just that I expect a lot of invention from the makers of a commercial product, because I've seen a lot of junk stereotypes. Akira Kurosawa created a sense of fear combined with anticipation in 'Seven Samurai' in 1954, and people until today are following the same techniques - that bores me to death. Some of the ideas to 'thrill' me in a recent movie actually put me to sleep. I wonder if these storytellers think their audience were born yesterday. Indian film-makers generally disregard originality and intelligence and try to make it up with songs, fights and flesh. I've seen enough of all the three elements and hence they don't interest me unless they have anything special.

Every critic is unique and it's always good to have a constructive fight within the community. I've received a fair share of venomous arrows for not approving a popular hero or a successful movie and I am hoping that I'll receive more such shots. I have my guilty pleasures too - where the world loathes that movie and I secretly admire it. If it comes to reviewing, I will confess my affection for the movie. In any case, you can expect me to speak my mind without giving in to public pressure.

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